It’s 37 degrees and blizzard-like in northern Wisconsin today, and while I’m prone to griping about the weather on my Facebook page I really don’t have it so bad. I’ve got wood cut, split and stacked, and more logs that I can cut and split if I have to, and so my wife and I are warm. But consider this.

Through the course of our work with Chippewa Valley Moral Mondays we found a lot of low income people this year who were facing having their power cut off on April 16th, 13 days ago. We figured the problem would be worse this year what with the record breaking cold and the steep spike in both propane and natural gas prices, but we didn’t anticipate what we eventually found out.

At first Xcel Energy wouldn’t tell us how many households in their service area were at risk of disconnect, as they say, but after we prompted a good article in the Eau Claire Leader Telegram, and pressure from multiple callers, they finally came clean. Out of roughly 250,000 households in their service area, which stretches from LaCrosse to Ashland, they expect to disconnect 4,000 to 4,500 households over the next few months, some of them no doubt having already occurred. I figure that’s probably somewhere in the neighborhood of 12,000 to 15,000 people, an unknown number of them children.

And I was told by an NAACP official from Milwaukee that 5,000 households there will be disconnected also. Another 15,000 to 20,000 people. And how many more across the state? I think it’s safe to say at this point that tens of thousands of our fellow Wisconsinites are going to have to try to live without electricity in the coming months. Think about that. Tens of thousands of people, again, an unknown number of them children, the majority of them likely evicted from their rented apartments, trailers and houses. Where do they go? Who takes them in?

How many of you knew that this happens every year, perhaps not at this scale, but a sizable number of people nonetheless, every year? I didn’t until just a few weeks ago. How is it we’ve become so disconnected to the plight of the poor in this country? Where’s the media on this? A number of media outlets do a story as the April 15th deadline approaches, but it’s little more than public notice on behalf of the power companies. Where’s the follow up to determine the impact?

Bob La Follette thought that utilities should be publicly owned. I couldn’t agree more.


5 Responses to Disconnected, you bet.

  1. Cat Kin says:

    At the Eau Claire Democratic Party’s Annual Spring Gala, members–home owners or not– gave a $13 dollar check to the County School Board for public school expenses as a rebuff for Walker’s recent tax credit.

    To editor Don Huebscher’s credit, The Leader Telegram had been reporting this county wide initiative in protest of the severe cuts in public school funding statewide by our Republican ruled government. The Eau Claire Leader Telegram more accurately publishes the public’s news as it has a family run history in the Chippewa Valley.

    The city of Eau Claire has, after much vigorous debate, approved a public/private 50 million dollar development at the downtown confluence of the Chippewa and Eau Clair rivers. Our intention is that the Progressive influence in the Eau Clair area, with its strong Move-To-Amend and local government initiatives, will spread outward from our West/Central location to more of Wisconsin and eventually to Madison as well.

  2. Duane12 says:

    I belong to an electric cooperative, but don’t see much if any difference between my coop and PIG(private) electric. The management of both are whining about EPA standards for reducing use of coal. They seem to ignore climate change, Duke Energy’s coal ash dump, air pollution worldwide, ice cap melt, and health hazard to humans caused by coal.

    On a more humane note, Catholic Charities in the La Crosse Diocese is currently conducting a fund drive to help needy families pay off past due amounts so that power will be restored or reconnected. I sent in a meager fifty bucks.

    I ask the question: where is the humanity of Koch and other PIG electric owners in these tough times for the 47%?

  3. c zehfus says:

    Smart meters will enable remote disconnections. One must wonder if the meters continue to give families a free gift of radiofrequency bursts in their homes/yards after the utility stops keeping the data they are sending…

  4. c zehfus,

    Attaching yourself to another issue as a way to promote your own isn’t the best way to get your point across. For example, you fail to recognize that the scenario described above is almost certain to result in tens of thousands of people searching for a place to live this summer. A cynical person might interpret this oversight as evidence of an obsessional callousness on your part.

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